The unrest in Ukraine has been going on for months with little gains on either side. However, in the past week, tensions rose into riots and protests which injured hundreds and hospitalized police and protestors alike.
Essentially, Ukraine has instituted policies which turn the state into a dictatorship.
This isn’t the first time the Ukrainians have had to fight for democratic representation. Less than a decade ago, in the winter of 2004, the Orange Revolution staged protests against massive election fraud perpetrated by the Russian-favored former Prime Minister Yanukovich, ultimately leading to a proper democratic election.
Before Ukraine’s sweeping restrictions were put into effect, the protests were over accurate representation for citizens who want free-trade and eventual accession into the EU, but now Ukrainians are fighting for basic rights and freedoms.
The ultimate question is whether Russia or the EU offers Ukraine a better future, so let’s see what each side has to offer.
Russia has been intimately involved with the Ukrainian government, providing large amounts of political and economic support through various deals.
The positive side of the Russian partnership lies in Russia’s interest in continued control of the Ukrainian state. Russia would continue to lavish vast amounts of support to develop Ukrainian infrastructure. However, Russian and Ukrainian governments would most likely implement policies which strengthen Russia as a global power reminiscent of the old Soviet Bloc.
The downside to the Russian deal is the erosion of a democratic institution and the possibility that Ukrainian rights will continue to be severely limited. Continued partnership with Russia may also result in sanctions against the Ukraine, which in turn may cause the Ukrainian government to ally closer with Russia. A Russian alliance would also hurt Ukraine’s IT sector, which has been trying fervently to make inroads into the EU.
The Ukrainian protesters want to side with the EU and they are willing to fight for it.
The European Union offers Ukraine an entry to ‘Western’ society. Ukrainian accession into the EU would grant Ukrainian citizens an array of human rights and freedoms, a unified currency, and greater global representation for the Ukrainian state. A free-trade offer with the EU would also open a world of opportunities to Ukrainian commerce, as well as paving the way for a future accession into the EU. While any formal association with the EU would undoubtedly benefit Ukraine, the EU also faces its own challenges with corruption, so true political reform may not be an immediate reality for Ukraine.
What the EU has not offered the Ukraine is a larger role of support in the accession process. Russia has demonstrated significant interest and willingness to support the Ukrainian regime during this ordeal, but where is the EU? A few global officials have visited the protestors, but for the most part the EU has only offered some harsh words toward Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s administration, and asked both sides to calm down.
If the EU is truly interested in associating with Ukraine, representatives should sit down with all of the involved parties to try and work out a deal which could possibly benefit everyone.
The price of inaction in Ukraine is the lives of policemen and protestors alike. How many bodies will line the streets of Kiev before meaningful action takes place?